Reading and the Power of Parental Involvement

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The ability to read by third grade is a crucial benchmark, reports Adrienne Lu of Stateline. Those who are still having trouble at this point will naturally have difficulty learning other subjects in school and run a three- to four-times higher chance of dropping out of high school. Can parents help?

The ability to read by third grade is a crucial benchmark, reports Adrienne Lu of Stateline. Those who are still having trouble at this point will naturally have difficulty learning other subjects in school and may run a four-times higher chance of dropping out of high school.

Unfortunately, Lu says the recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) finds that “only 35 percent of fourth graders across the country are proficient in reading.” Many states have followed Florida’s lead to fix the problem with retention legislation. This year, Mississippi addressed its own difficulties with a law that holds back third graders who can’t read (the “Third Grade Gate“).

While a similar law improved Florida’s reading scores after 2003, one literacy expert stressed the importance of early parental engagement. Apparently, reading scores tend to be harder to improve than math scores because of where these subject areas are learned.

“Experts believe that’s because children learn math mostly at school, while they learn most of their language skills at home, much of it before they even enter school.

[Early literacy expert Susan] Neuman said that means states wanting to make significant improvements in early reading need to target parents before their children reach school, or even preschool.”

Neuman said groundwork can be laid in simple ways in kids as young as age one.

“‘We’ll start very early with a hug and a smile and a focus on getting that parent to do eye-to-eye contact with the child, to talk to them, to sing to them,’ Neuman said. ‘There are things we can do very early on that can promote and really change the trajectory of learning.'”

While new reading standards may play a big role in the educational future of our students, do we underestimate the influence parents can have? Could parental involvement be just as, or even more important than laws passed by the government?

>>Source: Lu, Adrienne. “States Insist on Third Grade Reading Proficiency.” Stateline. The Pew Charitable Trusts. 15 Nov. 2013.

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